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There are some good teachers who are doing good things in the public school system. I know this is hard to believe, but it is true. While many institutions have lost the core mission to simply educate students, not every person in a position of authority in front of children has some weird agenda that will end up on Libs of TikTok. Perhaps there is even a silent majority of teachers who simply want to teach well?
Now I understand the pessimism you might feel when living in what one might call “interesting times.” I have personally been forced to stop academic instruction at a public high school for half of my class as all of my kids were forced to participate in an LGBTQIA2S+ Pride Parade, whatever their beliefs about such matters. I have personally listened to administrators discuss highly charged political issues over the intercom in a public school as if everyone subject to those voices from on high has experienced some “trauma du jour” in the exact same way. I have been yelled at on a college campus for simply pointing out media bias against conservatives and called a “racist” at a faculty meeting while defending voters who might be Republican. I have had to sit through DEI training for educators in which stressing “racial essentialism” was considered “correct practice.” I was once proud to take a summer class in Boston until I realized the elite professors “teaching” me believed in using Herbert Marcuse’s framework for “repressive tolerance.”
Yet this is not the whole story.
Outside of my professional life, I tutor a student in middle school because I believe strongly in community service. I have nothing at all to do with setting the curriculum at this middle school. I am not a middle school teacher. In this scenario, I am simply an instrument of support who can help answer one kid’s questions about homework. We normally discuss the things that interest a 12-year-old kid, along with the need for punctuation.
Yet I’m sure you can imagine my delight when this kid’s homework last week dealt with the Cultural Revolution. This student is reading a book decrying the horrors of the Mao regime and totalitarian systems.
In a moment when Ivy League campuses are full of Hamas apologists yelling out slogans about genocide that they either don’t understand or really mean–terrifying in either case–this little middle school where I volunteer part-time is teaching young Americans about how the Red Guard was once an instrument of terror in the not so distant past. The student with whom I work is learning to think through why identifying people per some group can be a very dangerous thing.
And that was just the student’s English homework.
In Social Studies, the teacher is unfolding a unit on earlier Chinese history, which broadens understanding of the “olds” that the Red Guard was once intent on destroying.
I don’t know if the kid I’m helping has teachers who are willfully coordinating their lesson plans or not, but I can tell you as a teacher myself that what I see is great scaffolding about a topic in human history that seems pertinent to know in today’s world.
I’ll say it again.
There are some good teachers who are doing good things in the public school system.
And that is encouraging.Published in